Marketing With Direct Mail: It's Still Here, and You Should Be Trying It!

Melanie Balke
May 20, 2022

You probably know me for my email marketing posts, but sometimes I like to mix things up on this blog. After all, no marketing strategy is complete without a few different channels, and putting all of your eggs in one basket is never a good idea.

That’s why I want to use today’s blog post to discuss a topic that many people seem to have forgotten about…

A photo of old envelopes. Overlaid and centered header text reads, “Direct Mail Marketing: It's Still Here, and You Should Be Trying It!”

Direct mail marketing may not be the newest arrival on the block, but it’s a trusty mainstay of the industry. And, before you assume otherwise, let me clarify: I am talking about old-fashioned delivered-to-your-door direct mail.

It may seem a bit outdated, but this marketing channel is far from dead.

In fact, many consumers still enjoy receiving direct mail campaigns, and utilizing this increasingly rare outlet for your advertising has the potential to set you apart from your competition.

What Is Direct Mail Marketing?

A direct mail marketing strategy is what it says on the box.

A photo of scattered envelopes. Overlaid header text reads, “What Is Direct Mail Marketing?”

Companies utilizing direct mail marketing send out physical advertisements through the postal system. These are delivered to the target audience, and recipients get to enjoy something unique.

Aside from the inherent novelty of a well-thought-out direct mail campaign, these marketing materials provide customers with a physical receipt of a brand’s content marketing.

Because of the flexible nature of this medium, a direct mail campaign can take many forms. There is, of course, the classic letter. However, many brands have decided to deliver their message in unique and innovative ways. Oversized mailers, postcards, pamphlets, and coupons are all examples of ways that you can deliver your brand’s message to customers’ mailboxes.

What Makes Direct Mail Services Special?

One of the biggest perks of direct marketing campaigns is a novelty.

Think of it this way: how many modern companies — particularly those that haven’t been around for decades — are using traditional mail for their public relations?

Not many, right!?

A photo of small locked mailboxes. Overlaid and centered header text reads, “What Makes Direct Mail Services Special?”

In today’s digital age, you can stand out by returning to the old-school marketing playbook everyone else has forgotten about.

It may take a bit of time and creativity to make direct mail work for you, but many companies have found great success by bolstering their content strategy with this channel’s inclusion.

Direct Mail ROI

Of course, being unique doesn’t mean much if your marketing strategy doesn’t yield a return.

In the United States of America, marketers allot around $167 per person for direct mail campaigns. On average, these campaigns return a whopping $2,0995 in profit! That means this marketing strategy has the potential to turn over a huge 1,300% ROI! Behind email marketing’s average 4,400% ROI, that’s pretty darn effective!

The Direct Response to Your Direct Mail

One of the secrets to the success story of direct mail marketing is its ability to draw in customers. Particularly robust campaigns have had open rates of up to 90%, and at least 42% of consumers will read or scan all of their mail.

With qualified leads, direct mail campaigns have yielded response rates as high as 4.6% in 2020, and 39% of all recipients opted to try the advertised product. In 2019, 62% of all respondents to direct mail campaigns made a purchase.

Those numbers mean that direct mail marketing has a response rate that is 5–9 times greater than any other marketing channel! It also bolsters a strong conversion rate.

How Any Brand Can Use Direct Mail Marketing for Business Growth

It doesn’t matter if you’re a consulting firm, gym, or tech company. Everyone has the potential to draw profits from direct mail campaigns, and the key to that success can be found in the medium’s inherent qualities.

A photo of two wall-mounted mailboxes. Overlaid and centered header text says, “How to Use Direct Mail Marketing for Business Growth.”

There are certain things that are unique to direct mail, and these traits have helped this non-digital strategy survive in an increasingly electronic world.

Creative Development Potential

One of the most obvious benefits of direct mail marketing is its flexibility. I’ve mentioned this briefly, but now is the time to really investigate this matter.

A photo of an open wooden easel with a messy built-in paint palette.

Unlike emails and social media marketing, direct mail gives companies the ability to create a campaign from scratch. You have complete control over the size, layout, and qualities of your direct mail campaign. It can be as small or as large as you want, and the only true limitation is the cost and effort involved in the mailing process.


Thanks to the inherent creative potential of the medium, physical mail can be an interactive experience.

Now, this may seem odd. After all, isn’t digital marketing the interactive channel? How could a direct mail service deliver something with as much feedback and flexibility as an email?

The key to this interaction is the physical component.

A shareable graphic with a colorized photo of an attic art gallery. Overlaid header text reads, “Direct Marketing: Interaction.” Beneath this are two paragraphs of smaller text. The first paragraph reads, “There are many different ways to create direct marketing content. When you're sending customers a physical item, you have the opportunity to do truly unique things, which can include interactive content.” Several spaces below this is the second paragraph: “Companies have sent out origami, pop-out postcards, puzzles, and more through direct mail marketing!”

Unlike email marketing, direct marketing provides customers with physical evidence of your promotion. When customers receive direct mail, they have something they can hold and touch.

The best direct marketing knows this, and the best direct marketing companies will take advantage of it. The ultimate end goal of these campaigns is to create something so good that it goes from print production to the envelope and from the envelope to your target audience’s fridge.

Utilize Your Individuality

Finally, let me ask you a question: name a major tech company that regularly sends out direct mail marketing campaigns. There aren’t many, right?

A photo of many different postage stamps.

That lack of saturation is a massive advantage. While this channel may have fallen out of style in recent years, it isn’t dead! In fact, it has the potential to be one of the most lucrative channels in your marketing strategy portfolio, and choosing the right direct mail companies can dramatically boost your reach.

Everyone knows about email marketing. We all know about search engine optimization, paid search, and web development.

Direct mail is different. This once-ubiquitous marketing channel has become a novelty, and a wise marketing manager can take advantage of a brand’s individuality. These campaigns make customers feel like more than just a number, and that’s a powerful tool in the era of indirect marketing.

Tips & Tricks: The Dos and Don’ts of Direct Mail Marketing

Now that I’ve explained the concept and its utility, why don’t we wrap up with some tips and tricks?

A photo of many mailboxes in a haphazard row. Overlaid and centered header text reads, “Tips & Tricks: The Do's and Don'ts of Direct Mail Marketing.”

As one of the oldest mass communication methods, the direct mail channel is fairly well-regulated. Direct marketing agencies know this, and that information is crucial to running successful campaigns.

If you want to achieve true success with a direct marketing campaign, then I strongly suggest you seek out a few experts. Pair up with a direct marketing agency and tap into their knowledge. These individuals have done all of the market research necessary, and their strategic expertise is a key resource.

Don’t Have Too Many CTAs

I’ll start off with what you shouldn’t do. After all, we learn the most from our mistakes. Fortunately for you, I’ve experienced plenty of those, and I’m here to offer some advice on avoiding these pitfalls.

One of the first things to avoid is stuffing your content marketing with as many CTAs as you can. Direct mail is not the same as social media marketing, and your strategy will need to be adjusted to fit the medium.

Try to limit the number of call-to-actions that you have in a single message.

If an event marketing flyer tells users to call, subscribe, follow, and post content, then customers will quickly grow tired of the hoops they must jump through. Instead, consult with a customer acquisition specialist and find the most efficient route for your potential customers to take.

Don’t Forget to Check Your Copy

It may not be email marketing, but door-direct mail is still a marketing strategy. Always double- and triple-check your marketing material! You don’t want to send out content with typos and errors, as these will lower your brand’s standard.

A colorized and shareable graphic with a photo of a typewriter. Overlaid header text reads, “Tips & Tricks: Don’t Get Lazy.” Beneath this is smaller body text: “Direct marketing is still a reflection of your brand. Be sure to double and triple-check your copy before you send it out. You want to make sure that everything is written properly, and you want your tone to be consistent with the rest of your branding.”

You’ll also want to check with your creative thought leadership to ensure your design meshes well with existing company policies. The colors should tie into your web design, and the tone should fit with the rest of your company’s content marketing.

Don’t Forget to Follow Up With Customers

Think of your direct mail as a physical social media platform.

If you want conversion optimization, then you’ll want to consult with your data providers and strategists. Review your data management policies and get in touch with your project manager. All of these experts will know how to drive sales, and they’ll know which customers have the most potential.

The top direct marketing agency will be able to boost your response rates with strategic planning. You don’t want to overuse mailing services, but you also want to follow up with the right customers.

For example, let’s say that a company runs a simple campaign. It sends a modern postcard to its many subscribers, and these individuals are offered deals and competitive prices.

A serious marketer will then examine the results and pinpoint which customers took advantage of this content. From there, a direct mail marketing agency will be able to pick out the right audience and send a second wave of personalized gifts to nurture the brand’s leads.

Do Find the Right Audience

Now that I’ve gone over some of the most common mistakes, it’s time to review what you should be doing.

A shareable graphic with a colorized photo of overlapping postage stamps. Overlaid header text says, “Tips & Tricks: Find Your Audience.” Beneath this are two paragraphs of smaller body text. The first paragraph is, “Every form of marketing needs a target audience, and direct mail marketing is no different!” Several spaces below this is the second paragraph, which reads, “Before you launce any campaigns, do your resarch! Find your ideal audience and consult with your marketing manager.”

One of the first things you’ll need to do is market research. Regardless of what you’re producing — whether it’s email marketing, event marketing, search engine optimization, or any other digital marketing strategy — you need to find your target audience.

Your direct or digital marketing manager will be able to pinpoint the perfect segments. These are the customers who are most likely to improve your direct mail response rates, and their inclusion will ensure your direct mail services are successful.

Do Personalize Your Direct Mail

Like email marketing, direct mail marketing can be improved with a touch of personalization. You don’t need a vast network of complex algorithms, but you should do the bare minimum.

At the very least, include your customers’ names on envelopes and content.

This simple tactic can yield massive gains. In fact, simply including a customer’s name has the potential to boost your direct mail response rates by 135%!

Do Track the Results

Finally, you want to keep tabs on your campaigns’ direct response data.

Again, this is where a marketing agency will help. Marketing companies have the data management tools you need to properly track your results. They’ll also have the expertise needed to integrate direct and digital marketing strategies.

A photo of marketing statistics shown as a digital graph.

Some of the most common approaches to tracking direct mail campaign results are:

  • Creating special landing pages for each direct marketing campaign
  • Linking phone numbers to accounts
  • Using unique coupon codes

Do Use Every Resource

Now, before you run off to fire your digital marketing manager, remember that the secret to success is variety! Direct marketing is just one channel, and you need to have a well-rounded approach to maintain a successful marketing strategy.

Ask any business development expert, and they’ll tell you the same thing.

If you want to drive sales, you need to be open to every possibility. You want a site with gorgeous web design, a modern social media marketing team, a creative email marketing department, and a fantastic direct marketing agency.

The best direct marketing companies will be able to integrate your door-direct mail campaigns with your existing digital strategy.

In addition to boosting your data management potential, this channel coupling also gives you — as a business — the ability to guarantee that you’re reaching every potential customer.

Do Consider Hiring a Direct Marketing Agency

Finally, you’ll want to take a close look at your budget.

Can you afford to pair up with an amazing direct marketing group?

If the answer is “yes,” then I strongly suggest you do so.

Properly utilizing a direct mail service is a huge hassle. There are legal repercussions to improper content, and it’s nothing like a digital strategy. Knowing how to run a social media marketing campaign will not translate to understanding how to design and print direct marketing content.

If you’re thinking about diving into this vast network of potential profit, then you want to have expert support. Direct marketing companies come with their own mailing services, and they’ll handle all of the print production. Their business consulting teams will work with you to create content that fits your vision, and they’ll send out your direct marketing for you.

Examples of Direct Marketing

It’s been a long lesson, right?

Understanding direct marketing isn’t easy, and we’ve barely scratched the surface!

A photo of a parked USPS mail truck with overlaid header text: “Examples of Direct Marketing.”

If you want your campaigns to be a success story, then you need to spend time researching other campaigns. To help you develop your own strategy, I’ve rounded up a few quick examples of amazing direct marketing.

Generating Ideas With Google

In 2015, Google’s creative development team pushed out a unique direct marketing mailer.

A direct marketing sample from Google. A green box contains loose Lego pieces. To the right is an assembled phone stand.

Subscribers to Google Fi were treated to a special box, which contained all of the parts and instructions necessary to create a custom phone stand for their Android devices.

Accompanied by an encouraging core message, — “Thanks for your support. Let’s build on this.” — this campaign was an amazing way to pair personalization, utility, and memorability.

Getting Interactive With IKEA

Everyone knows about IKEA!

This Swedish brand isn’t resting on its laurels, though!

Its public relations department is always working, and its marketing team has come up with plenty of amazing campaigns. In this direct marketing campaign, recipients received a fold-out origami mailer, which expanded to create a 3D view of a fully furnished IKEA room.

A sample IKEA ad. This direct marketing campaign is a fold-out postcard. When opened, the origami inside pops out, forming a 3D view of an IKEA-furnished bedroom.

Recipients were given something interactive, and the end product is something that won’t soon be forgotten!

Having Fun With Heinz

If you’re looking for a way to send something truly memorable, look no further than Heinz’s 2020 “ketchup puzzle” campaign.

A photo of a 570 piece puzzle. The red cover has the Keinz logo printed on it as well as the words “Ketchup Puzzle” in the center.

Check out that brainteaser!

Recipients of Rethink’s unique direct marketing received a devilishly hard 570 piece puzzle. Printed as a solid rectangle of Heinz ketchup red, this brainteaser became infamous in its own right.

After some campaigning, the company released the former campaign as a standalone product, which you can check out for yourself!

Unwrapping a Prize With Lexus

Finally, there’s Lexus’ unique “all-terrain” manila envelope campaign. Sent out in 2020, this direct marketing push sent target audience members a complex twist on the classic manila envelope.

A campaign from Toronto's DentsuBos. The photo shows a white manila envelope with many fasteners. String connects these fasteners, forming an elevation map.

When opened, DentsuBos’ All-Terrain Envelope campaign revealed a special code that could be used to win an adventure across Canada in a Lexus GX.

Expand Your Knowledge of Marketing

Regardless of what you’re looking for, I’ll always be here!

Alongside my team of experts at The Email Marketers, I’m constantly updating this blog with tips, tricks, and insights into running successful digital marketing campaigns.

If you need even more help with your marketing strategy, then don’t be afraid to reach out to me! Together, we can discuss your goals and vision. With a bit of business consulting, we can see what kind of marketing will work for your brand, and we’ll develop a plan that will work for you.